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'Can't Put Anyone In That Situation': Why Some Chicago Restaurants Are Closing On New Year's Eve Because Of COVID Surge

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois set a COVID-19 record Thursday, with more than 30,000 new cases across the state.

The figure amounts to the highest one day total ever, and the surge in Chicago is forcing some restaurants to shut their doors again.

As CBS 2's Jackie Kostek reported Thursday night, some chefs also said this spike couldn't have come at a worse time.

For a lot of restaurants, New Year's Eve is one of the biggest nights of the year - and that makes it all the more painful to have to make the decision to shut their doors. But for the sake of public health, they're doing it anyway.

"A hundred thousand dollars last two weeks, I would imagine, is what we've lost," said said John Manion, owner and executive chef at El Che Steakhouse and Bar, 845 W. Washington Blvd.

Manion said it's hard to comprehend the amount of money lost by having to close El Che during one of the most profitable times of the year. But at least he can sleep at night.

"In my mind, I can't put anybody in that situation," Manion said.

For Manion, the Omicron variant began its rapid spread through his steakhouse last week. First hit was the front of house staff. Then, as they prepared to reopen this week, it was the kitchen.

"It just went down the line," Manion said. "I would say half my kitchen has COVID."

Manion is joining several restaurant owners across the city in making the tough choice to close and stay closed through the new year. After six employees got COVID, Richard Mott of the North Pond in Lincoln Park made the call to cancel New Year's Eve reservations on Monday.

That meant having to make some tough calls.

"We had two wedding proposals scheduled for the night. We've been open 23 years. We've had a wedding proposal on New Year's every year we've been open except one," Mott said. "It's just kind of sad to call someone up and tell them that."

Sad it may be, but for Mott and Manion, forgoing the profits of a sold-out night felt like the right call for everyone.

"My guess is a lot of people are going to be staying home on New Year's," said Manion, who added that he hopes to be able to reopen El Che sometime next week.

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